Boudoir of The Marchellin

90 superlative set and costume designs conceived by the Russian artist Erte for the legendary 1980 Glyndebourne Opera production of Der Rosenkavalier will be on display this months at Bonhams London saleroom at 101 New Bond Street. Harmony and Opulence: Erte and Der Rosenkavalier runs from 22 -26 May.

The exhibition is being curated by the distinguished collector Elizaveta Meshkvicheva , who writes in the forward to the exhibition catalogue, "As a Russian, Erté and his legacy are of course, very special to me. We are so fortunate, dare I say blessed, that we can once again observe the grandeur and profundity of Erté's imagination and creativity, through this collection."

Erté (1892-1990) is one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. So when the opera house Glyndebourne unveiled the designs the artist had created for its 1980 production of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, it was considered a tremendous coup. Writing in the exhibition catalogue, John Cox, the production's director, says of Erte's designs "All were immaculately executed and presented, each in itself a work of art as well as an accurate working drawing of the desired finished product. His long life as illustrator, fashion designer and creator of theatrical spectacle was brought to a fitting climax and conclusion, as seen in this comprehensive and sumptuous exhibition."

In order to achieve a consistent visual impression, Erté paid close attention to detail and among the 90 drawings on display at Bonhams are separate designs for many items, insignificant in themselves, but which contributed to the integrity of the overall effect.

Among the highlights of the Bonhams exhibition are:

The stage set for Act I - the boudoir of the Marschallin (wife of a Field Marshal). As the opera opens, she is secretly entertaining her teenage lover, Count Octavian. When her boorish cousin, Count Ochs, interrupts them, Octavian leaves in disguise. Ochs plans to propose to Sophie, the young daughter of a rich merchant. He needs to find a Knight of the Rose (Rosenkavalier) to present her with a silver rose – the traditional sign of engagement – on his behalf. The Marschallin suggests Octavian. Seeing him in his Rosenkavalier costume, she is painfully aware of the age difference between them and realises that one day he will leave her. Erte's drawing shows the moment at the very end of the act when the Marschallin, left alone, contemplates her face in the mirror.

The set design for the presentation of the rose in Act II - the crucial moment in the opera's plot when Octavian and Sophie meet, and fall instantly in love.

Romain de Tirtoff (1892-1990) was a Russian- born French artist and designer whose pseudonym comes from the French pronunciation of the initial letters of his initials. Over his long career, he worked in fashion, jewellery, graphic arts, costume and set design for films, theatre and opera.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera was founded in 1934 by John Christie. Initially, performances were staged inside the family's country house, Glyndebourne, in West Sussex but now take place in an adjacent free-standing purpose built theatre. Glyndebourne is one of the foremost international opera festivals and is also a long-established fixture on the social calendar. The season runs from late May until the end of August.

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